When people go online to find information, they almost always start by firing up their favourite search engine and typing in what they are looking for. The search engines, in turn, show a list of results that are related to the user’s query. These results are ordered by how relevant they are to the query, as well as a number of other factors. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing certain components of a website so that it will show up higher in the search results.
SEO is big business. In fact, there are companies that do nothing else but help businesses and website owners optimize their sites. It makes sense when you think about it. After all, if you are able to achieve a top listing with your site, you can get practically unlimited free traffic to your pages. This can dramatically boost your bottom line by allowing you to get more leads or sales.
Unfortunately, not all search engine marketing companies are created equal. The process of optimizing a website is rather complex. Even more important, however, is the fact that the variables that search engines look at when ranking websites are constantly changing. A good SEO agency needs to be up to date with all of the latest optimization techniques if they want to help their clients get results. This is especially important when you consider that certain optimization techniques that worked in the past such as link building can now get your site penalized in the search results.
Because of that, it is important to thoroughly vet any search engine marketing companies that you are planning on hiring to work on your website. A good place to start is by asking for a list of sites that they have worked on in the past. This can help you see firsthand how these sites are currently ranking in the search results. If the sites aren’t showing up on the first page for keywords that are related to the products or services that they offer, you should probably keep looking into you find a company that is more qualified.
You also need to be sure that the company you hire to work on your site provides excellent communication. They should not only keep you up to date with the changes that they are making to your site, but also with how your site’s ranking is changing over time. This can help you make sure that your money is being well spent.
Finally, you need to choose a company that is realistic about their expectations. If a company promises to get your site to the number one spot in the search engines, you should choose a different search engine marketing company instead. It is not possible to know for sure whether or not a site will ever achieve a top listing. Instead, they should clearly outline their overall optimization strategy for you, explaining how each step that they are going to take will benefit your site rather than making promises that they can’t keep.
If your website doesn’t show up on the first page of search results on Google, Bing or Yahoo, your potential customers might not even know you exist. Better search engine visibility can be critical to boosting visits to your website, which can lead to increased brand awareness and higher sales and profits.
But what if you lack the time and technical expertise to improve your site’s search engine ranking? It might make sense to hire an experienced, reliable search engine optimization (SEO) consultant.
Here are 10 essential questions to ask when considering prospective SEO consultants:
1. May I have a list of current and past clients?
A reputable SEO consultant should be open to sharing a brief list of current and former clients and his or her contact information, says Vanessa Fox, author of Marketing in the Age of Google (Wiley, 2012) and founder of Nine By Blue, a Seattle-based SEO software provider.
These references can help you gauge how effective the candidate is, as well as verify that the person did indeed work on specific SEO campaigns. Clients may not provide specific analytics, Fox says, but they should be able to at least tell you if they saw a positive impact on their search ranking, especially in conversions and in gaining an audience, as a direct result of the consultant’s efforts.
2. How will you improve my search engine rankings?
Steer clear of SEO consultants who won’t freely discuss their methods in detail, cautions Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, a Seattle-based internet marketing software company and co-author of The Art of SEO (O’Reilly, 2012). They should explain the strategies they would use to drive up your website’s search engine ranking, as well as estimate how long it could realistically take to achieve the SEO campaign goals you agree on.
Make sure the candidate’s proposal includes an initial technical review of your website to weed out any problems that could lower your search engine ranking, including broken links and error pages. Consultants also should provide “on page” optimization, a process to make your website as search engine friendly as possible. It involves improving your website’s URL and internal linking structure, along with developing web page titles, headings and tags.
Also, ask consultants if they provide “off page” SEO strategies to raise awareness of your content on other websites, often via blogs, social media platforms and press releases.
3. Do you adhere to search engines’ webmaster guidelines?
You want a consultant who strictly abides by Google’s publicly posted webmaster best practices, which specifically prohibit 12 common SEO tricks, including automatically generating spammy content and adding bogus hidden text and links. If a candidate doesn’t follow those guidelines, your website could be relegated to a dismally low search results ranking. Or, worse yet, Google could ban it from search results altogether.
4. Can you guarantee my website will achieve a number-one ranking on Google, Bing and Yahoo?
If the candidate answers yes, Fox warns, “Turn and run in the other direction as fast as you can.” Although it’s impossible to guarantee a number-one ranking on any search engine, she says, some unethical SEO consultants do make such bogus guarantees.
Consider it a red flag if the candidate claims to have an insider relationship with Google or any other search engine that will get you priority search results rankings. Only Google, Bing and Yahoo can control how high or low websites appear in their search results.
5. Are you experienced at improving local search results?
Appearing in the top local search engine results is especially important to small brick-and-mortar businesses trying to attract nearby customers, Rand says. You’ll want a consultant who has expertise in local SEO techniques.
If your website is optimized for what’s known as “local SEO,” it should appear when someone nearby is searching for keywords that are relevant to your business. To achieve that, a consultant should add your business’s city and state to your website’s title tags and meta descriptions, and get your site listed on Bing, Google and Yahoo’s local listings, which are online directories of businesses that cater to a specific geographical area.
6. Will you share with me all changes you make to my site?
Search engine optimization will most likely require a number of changes to your existing web page coding. It’s important to know exactly what adjustments the consultant plans to make and on how many web pages. If you would like the candidate to get your permission before accessing and altering your website code, be sure to say so.
Read more: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/227229